A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released on August 19th has numbers that should make Democrats take notice. In a hypothetical head to head match up with Hillary Clinton, in the swing state of North Carolina, Trump leads 45-42. He holds a virtually identical 43-40 lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the same poll.
Trump also holds a commanding lead over his GOP competitors in North Carolina. In the Republican primary race, Trump has 24 percent support, well ahead of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (14 percent) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (13 percent).
North Carolina is a pivotal swing state. Barack Obama won the Tar Heel State in 2008, defeating John McCain by a narrow 49.7 to 49.4 margin. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state over Obama 50.4 to 48.4 percent.
While Democrats don’t need to carry North Carolina to win a general election, the state has become a competitive state that can serve as a barometer for a candidate’s political viability. A Republican cannot afford to lose North Carolina. A Democrat can win without it, but failure to carry the state all but guarantees a tight election, since North Carolina only leans slightly more red than the nation as a whole.
The PPP poll is one of the first indications that while Donald Trump’s ideas remain a joke, his campaign may not be a joke. His viability in North Carolina hints at the discomforting possibility that he may turn out to be electable. At the very least, his 43-40 edge over Clinton shows he is an upgrade over Jeb Bush, who manages just a 42-42 tie with Clinton in North Carolina.
Of course, the general election is still over a year away, and Donald Trump is certainly a volatile candidate who could say or do something that disqualifies him from consideration by a large cross section of the electorate. However, he has already said outrageous things that should have derailed his campaign, and voters have either agreed with him or simply shrugged their shoulders. For Democrats, it is far too early to panic about the thought of a Donald Trump presidency. However, it is not too early to take the threat seriously and to start mobilizing voters to make sure it never happens.